Philippine journalist Maria Ressa has a second cyber-defamation lawsuit pending, filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng on February 13 because of a tweet published a year earlier by the director of Rappler, the outlet reported on Friday.
Ressa was already convicted of cyber-defamation Monday following a lawsuit also filed by Keng in 2017 due to an article published by Rappler in May 2012, in which the businessman was linked to drug trafficking and human trafficking allegations based on an intelligence report, reports Efe news. For that demand, Ressa and the journalist Reynaldo Santos, author of the article, can face between six months and six years in prison, although the sentence is not yet final.
In this new complaint, Keng sues the journalist for a tweet from February 19, 2019, which showed screenshots of an article now removed on the website of the Philstar newspaper, which related the businessman to the murder of former Manila councilor Chika Go. The Philstar removed the article the next day from its website after Keng's lawyers threatened to take legal action.
Philippine Journalist Sued
The management of the medium indicated that they wanted to be "prudent" since "the scope and limits of the Cybercrime Prevention Law of 2012 -which served as the basis to condemn Ressa- have not yet been explored", Rappler reported Friday. According to Keng's eleven-page complaint, in publishing that article, Ressa "spread malicious allegations" against him "with his 350,000 followers and anyone with internet access",
Keng's alleged links to drugs and human trafficking cited by Rappler and Philstar's articles were based on a confidential intelligence report, obtained by veteran investigative journalist Aries Rufo, who died in 2015 and who contributed to the Santos story. The cyber-defamation conviction of Ressa and Santos last Monday has been widely questioned by legal experts in the Philippines, as the crime of defamation prescribes after one year and Keng's lawsuit came 5 years after the publication of the report.
However, the Justice Department admitted the lawsuit based on a recent Cybercrime law and established that cybercrime prescribes at age 12. Another irregularity is that the law was approved in October 2012, five months after the publication of the report, so it was applied retroactively.
The prosecution relied on the fact that a typographical error was corrected in 2014, to allege the "republication" of it and avoid the pitfall of retroactivity. Ressa has seven other pending criminal cases related to tax evasion and the Philippine media property law, causes that she attributes to "political persecution" by Rappler's critical journalism with the Rodrigo Duterte government, who has not hidden her animosity toward the outlet.